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  • Haley Jolstead

How to Create a Better Slideshow

Have you ever sat through an hour-long lecture where the slide presentation looked like this?

It gets boring after a while. And you probably don’t even remember what it was about.

One the most important parts of any classroom, seminar, or training is the visuals you use. They keep your students engaged, and they visually communicate the same message you speak. In short, it will make or break your message.

Nancy Duarte is an author, teacher, and advocate for better presentations. She has written three successful books on how to be a better presenter and create better slideshows.

Her book slide:ology is a voice of authority in the art of presentation making. The book is 261 pages of pure slide wisdom. Here are her three ingredients for a great slide:


“A background is a container or surface on which to place visual elements. It can incorporate anything you want, or it can have nothing on it at all.”

Duarte recommends not making the background of your slides fancy, crowded, or busy in and of themselves. The background should not compete with the content of your slide, she says.

The slide can either be 2D or 3D, but not both. If you choose 2D, the slide’s design has much less to think about. If you choose 3D, there are several more design principles to consider.

If you decide to create slides in 3D, remember the laws of environmental consistency:

  1. Consistent vanishing point

  2. Consistent light source

  3. Consistent effect on the elements


“Understanding and using the color wheel helps you choose a harmonious palette.”

Most people don’t realize how much color plays into our perception of businesses. Colors and the combinations we put them in give us a feeling and put us in a mood. If you can take that into consideration when designing your presentations, you can use colors to your advantage.

Getting good color combinations [LA2] can be difficult, and there are many tools available to help you master the color wheel. Adobe Kuler is just one of many. It can be found here. Here are some Nancy Duarte-approved color schemes:




Before you can pick your color palette, you need to determine the color of your background. Black is for formal presentations, larger venues, and works great with ambient lighting. However, it does not work well for handouts.

Choose a white background for more informal settings and for smaller venues like conference rooms. It has a bright feeling and works well for handouts.


“Presentations are a ‘glance media’ – more closely related to billboards than other media.”

Use text wisely. All text should serve a purpose. Have enough text to get your message across, but not too much to crowd the slide. It should be easy to read at a distance and convey the message quickly.

There are several different types of fonts. The two major fonts every presenter should be aware of and use correctly are serif and sans serif fonts. Serif fonts have little “feet” on the ends. Fonts like Times New Roman and Georgia are serif fonts. They are good for bodies of text in paragraph form, like in a book or a newspaper.

Sans serif fonts are fonts without serifs. Fonts like Arial and Tahoma are sans serif. They are best for titles or if you are aiming for a clean, modern look and feeling.


As a general rule, fonts should be no smaller than 18-point in a slide presentation. Font size should be consistent throughout the presentation. All titles should be the same size, all body text should be the same size, and all captions should be the same size. It creates a sense of uniformity and professionalism in the presentation.

In Short:

  1. Use simple backgrounds

  2. Be conscious of your color palette, and be consistent

  3. Use the appropriate text at a size large enough to be seen

What tips do you have for slide design? Comment below.

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